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Jonge Honden - photo mural image

Young dogs! A bold consultancy in the heart of the Netherlands

By | Interview
Jonge Honden logo

The consultancy Jonge Honden (Young Dogs) represents the spirit of the Dutch Innovation. Their consultants are bold, lively, ambitious and created a new enterprise framework in the city of Utrecht that empowers their capacity to solve societal challenges. We met Rik van Dijk and he told us a bit of their story and operation.

How was the idea of the collective Jonge Honden created? Is it unique in the NL?

Jonge Honden started with two young people who had just graduated – when they started working, they saw that organizations are full of employees who are stuck in routines and protocols. As young people, they had this fresh energy, new ideas and insight into the most recent models and theories. Here they found some friction: long existing organizations with their own routines vs. young people with a great need for flexibility and new ways of working. So, from this moment Jasper and Gerco created their own young company: the Jonge Honden. The organisation was founded in 2000 and started with 2 people, then 4 and nowadays has around 35 active “jonge honden”. Jonge Honden is unique in its own way since 20 years ago, far before flexible, hybrid organizations, Generation X and Y and Agile became the new status quo.

Tell me about your creative process.

At Jonge Honden, there are two bigger goals: 1) personal development and 2) entrepreneurship. Therefore Jonge Honden doesn’t have bosses and other supervisors. We do everything by ourselves, from acquisition to all the administration, so each Jonge Hond (young dog) learns every facette of the organizational process.

We understand that each person has specific needs and preferences, so we don’t work with standards. He/she needs to be proactive while others will help this person to develop through buddies and mentors – our own ‘Junior Journey’, that encompasses training and so on. Besides that, the Jonge Hond with entrepreneurial ambitions can start his/her own little organization within Jonge Honden, as a collective. In this case, he/she writes a business plan. If it is approved by the other Jonge Honden, he/she becomes an entrepreneur with a couple of colleagues in a new team. There is a lot of benefits in this position, like using the Jonge Honden’s existing network, the experience of others… that is, a big safety net.

In a nutshell, what was the most challenging project so far?

This is hard to say. The Jonge Honden have their own projects for other organizations. We also got a lot of internal projects. So there are too many activities involving different people, what makes it difficult to choose the biggest challenge. Interestingly, when there is a complex project, we can count on one of the 35 Jonge Honden. Combined, we accumulate a lot of knowledge about all kinds of subjects and this helps us to overcome almost all challenges.

How do you see Jong Honden in 10 years?

That’s the fun part! I don’t know, and maybe I don’t want to know. There will be a lot of new young talent, with fresh energy and new ideas. Jonge Honden will develop with all the ambitions of the new people to come. Leaving Jonge Honden as an open playground will ensure that the outcome will be surprising – and that will be a good thing, for sure!

Thanks, Rik!

Watch the video (in Dutch)

Alissa Rees photo

Meet Alissa Rees, a Dutch healthcare designer

By | Interview

Interview with Alissa Rees

Alissa Rees photo

Dutch design is gaining a lot of space in the field of societal challenges, having several initiatives and investments implemented in the past years. And there is much more to come. One example is the remarkable work of the designer Alissa Rees. Recently graduated from the Design Academy Eindhoven in 2017, she came up with twenty concepts to humanise hospitals, some of them presented at the Dutch Design Week, which later resulted in the book “Humanising the White Building”.

You just came back from the Milan Design Week. What could you share about this experience?

Milan Design week 2018 was a beautiful experience. Sponsored by the kingdom of the Netherlands, I was able, together with 6 other designers, to exhibit my work on a small stand but in a valuable space. I received a lot of positive feedback, it was something different than the visitors normally see at Milan Design Week. There were also visitors a bit confused when entering the room since they were not immediately surprised by shiny or beautiful products. They had to dive into the story and take the time to digest. After sharing my story, my book and my thoughts about how I want to humanise hospitals, the visitors were very enthusiastic. I made good connections and hopefully valuable collaborations for the future. A valuable experience!

On your website (www.alissarees.com) you mention that “Simple thoughts and ignored emotions are my biggest inspiration”. What else inspires you in your daily life to keep creating beautiful design solutions?

What fascinates me as well are the routines human beings like to play part in. Even though they actually would prefer to get out of this specific routine. Deeply inside we know what makes us happy, but still emotions, such as fears stop us from doing the action leading to our joy. This inspires me to create concepts or products to make people aware of their habits and actions.

Your work implies a lot of observation of human behaviour, right? Any tips on how to become a better observer?

To become a better observer of human behaviour? It starts with interest. Why do people behave like they do? Why are they stuck, happy, annoyed? I love to analyze everything. But I also think that life experience will help to understand people. You maybe think you know what the emotion ‘fear’ feels like, but one emotion has multiple levels. Maybe you only experienced the first level (the softest version of it). This is how I would describe it. If you experience more in life, living on the edge, you more and more understand why people do what they do.

Now imagine we are in the future. How do you see your design legacy in 20 years?

I can imagine I am still a concept designer running an even bigger company. I hope I get the possibility to humanise hospitals in different areas all over the world. That I see improvement on different levels and that I can inspire others to do the same. I hope I can humanise different aspects in more areas as education in elementary schools and contact with nature in our daily lives. And most of all I hope I am healthy, satisfied and still open for great adventure!

Thanks, Alissa!

Mout Bier vitraux

Brewing the Dutch creative process

By | Interview

From 23 to 25 February, the City of Arnhem hosted the Mout Bier Festival in the Eusebius church. Borda’s team were there and interviewed 3 different breweries to uncover the key aspects of the creative process behind the best Dutch beers. And, of course, took the chance to taste some amazing styles that we found there.


 

Interview with Koen Overeem, from Rock City Beers (Amersfoort)

Rock City Beers Photo

How do you compare the Dutch beer with the beer from other European countries such as Germany and Belgium?

In my opinion, these countries are a bit stuck in their own traditions while Holland is a way more forward, for example looking overseas and using inspiration from America. We always find interesting things happening there because they are always trying different ingredients… they are more daring to try.

At Rock City Beers there are no limits in trying, so we are always looking for the best combination of flavours. We do that by using what already is in the beer, accentuating specific characteristics, or we can also use extra ingredients. For example, a bock beer always tastes raisin, or chocolate, or coffee. We tried to accentuate the aromas of chocolate and coffee and were successful in brewing the ‘Mokka Bocka’. It was all about enhancing specific results of the brewing process.


 

Interview with the brewers from Oersoep Micro Brewery (Nijmegen)

Oersoep Brewery Photo

In your opinion, what is the main character of the Dutch beer?

Well, we do a bit of everything. We borrow knowledge from the Germans, Belgians, Americans, and also from the UK, and use them as a toolbox to make our own mixed style.

Can you tell us a bit about your creative process?

Oersoep makes a new beer once or twice a month at least. It can be a variation from a previous beer, but also a new recipe. Our brewery is separated into two departments with different styles: one takes care of our production line for supermarkets, while the other department ventures in the field of wild beers, a slow process of fermentation with wild yeast. Usually, these beers are stored for a long time in wine and whiskey barrels to achieve a complex taste and aroma. What we find interesting about the wild beers is that they are unpredictable and therefore will never taste the same.


 

Interview with Dennis Pancras, from Rigters (Buurse)

Rigters Brewery Photo

How would you describe the Dutch beer scene?

In the Netherlands, there is a scene of creative breweries that are always experimenting. If we compare the present scene with that from10 years ago, the amount of breweries has exploded. So, with this huge amount of new products in the market, we all have to be creative to sustain the competition. That’s what makes the beer scene so interesting… and because we try to brew with different ingredients. At Rigters a new recipe starts with an idea that involves a kind of flavour that we enjoy. The next step is to sit together, hear everybody’s input – for example about trying one specific yeast or hop – then we get to work. With this process, we have achieved excellent results.

Cheers!

Researches on fashion: new materialism, Dutch heritage, and more…

By | Interview

An interview with Anneke Smelik

Anneke Smelik's photo

Photo by Ineke Batist

Anneke Smelik is Katrien van Munster professor of Visual Culture at the Radboud University Nijmegen, where she is coordinator of the MA programme ‘Creative Industries’. She published widely on issues of identity, body, memory and technology in fashion, cinema, and popular culture. Recent (co-)edited books include Delft Blue to Denim Blue: Contemporary Dutch Fashion (I.B. Tauris, 2017); Materializing Memory in Art and Popular Culture (Routledge, 2017) and Thinking Through Fashion. A Guide to Key Theorists (I.B. Tauris, 2016). Anneke Smelik is project leader of the research programme ‘Crafting Wearables: Fashionable Technology’ (2013-2018), funded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research.

See: www.annekesmelik.nl

You just won the 2017 Radboud Science Award. What is your main line of research? What is your current focus in this field?

The Radboud Science Award is about translating my research in fashion studies to primary school children; this is very new and exciting. And quite a challenge to work with small children!

My main line of research concerns the creative industry of fashion, especially in relation to issues of identity and material culture. In my most recent work I have proposed a new-materialist framework for fashion studies. The ‘material turn’ has gained substantial recognition in social and cultural research over the past decades, but has received less attention in fashion studies. At the same time fashion hardly ever figures in scholarship on new materialism. The interdisciplinary field of new materialism highlights the role of non-human factors in the field of fashion, ranging from raw materials (cotton) to smart materials (solar cells) and from the textility of the garment to the tactility of the human body. New materialists work from a dynamic notion of life in which human bodies, fibres, fabrics, garments, and technologies are inextricably entangled. The context of new materialism is posthumanism, which entails both a decentring of the human subject and an understanding of things and nature as having agency. The key concept is thus material agency, involving a shift from human agency to the intelligent matter of the human body as well as the materiality of fabrics, clothes and technology. The insight of material agency is important for acknowledging the pivotal role of technology in fashion design today, allowing greater attention for the material aspects of high-performance fibres and smart fabrics.

I have just finished working on a case study of Dutch designer Iris van Herpen. From a new-materialist perspective, Iris van Herpen’s high-tech and 3D-printed designs can be understood as hybrid assemblages of fibres, materials, fabrics and skin that open up engaged and meaningful interconnections with the human body.

You have published several books in the past years. Can you tell us more about them?

This year I finished a trilogy on cultural memory with my colleagues at the Radboud University, but here I will concentrate on my work on fashion.

With a colleague from the London College of Fashion, Agnès Rocamora, I have edited a volume in 2016 that discusses the thought and concepts of major thinkers, from Marx to Deleuze, and Bakhtin to Foucault, etc., and their relevance for understanding the field of fashion today. We think Thinking through Fashion makes an important and much-needed theoretical contribution to fashion studies. The field of fashion, from production to consumption, is very complex and highly globalized, and we need equally complex and wide-ranging theories to ‘think through’ its many issues.

In 2017 I published a really gorgeous and glossy book on contemporary fashion in the Netherlands, with lots of colourful pictures! I’m quite proud of this book, which is the result of a five year long research project, financed by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research. It also resulted in four finished PhD’s, all of whom contributed to the book.

Delft Blue to Denim Blue maps the landscape of Dutch fashion in all its rich variety and complexity. The book assesses the diversity of Dutch fashion designers, firms and brands in their historical and cultural context. We extensively discuss the vexed and complicated issue of national identity in relation to clothes. Basically, we argue that in a globalized world all fashion designs are shot through with cultural signs of hybridity. What we consider Dutch comes in fact from elsewhere. For example, Delft Blue earthenware is based on Chinese porcelain; tulips originated in Turkey; and patterns and colours in Dutch regional wear have their roots in Indian chintz. Understanding national fashion identity as a contradictory and multifaceted issue, the book debunks myths surrounding Dutch fashion, digs up new facts and stories, and explores the creative relation to cultural heritage. Delft Blue to Denim Blue is based on solid academic research and gives a rich overview of designers, ranging from G-Star jeans, and affordable retailer C&A, to a savvy brand like Vanilia, and from the famous designer duo Viktor&Rolf to a futuristic designer like Iris van Herpen.

Image of Anneke Smelik's books

Are you currently working on a new title? Can you tell us a bit about this new work?

Yes, my new research is on fashion and sustainability. While reliable statistics are still not available, it is well-known that the fashion industry excels in waste, pollution, and exploitation of human labour and natural resources, due to over-production and over-consumption. In the past decade, scholars in Fashion Studies have highlighted the urgent need to engage systematically with the environmental, social and economic consequences of the globalized ‘fast fashion’ system. Fast fashion emerged at the end of the 1990s and is characterized by rapid changes in style, ever faster cycles of global production and consumption, and ever cheaper products. Achieving change is difficult because of the long supply chain of fashion on the production side and the perpetual quest for the latest trend on the consumer side.

The field of fashion does not only involve complicated chains of material production and consumption, but also pertains to immaterial issues of body images, identity, and social relations Again, I want to bring in the perspective of new materialism. New materialism has underlined how such elements, including identity, are materially embedded, while fashion studies has highlighted the embodied practice of dressing. By bringing those two theoretical perspectives together, my new project accounts for the multifaceted relation between issues of representation and the material aspects of (un)sustainable fashion. This is needed because neither the practice of, nor the scholarship on, sustainable fashion have seriously considered the interaction between the human and non-human factors of the fashion system. By revealing the deep interconnectedness of those aspects, a new-materialist perspective may give direction to the desired change and transformation towards sustainable fashion. Concretely, I want to research two specific elements: rethinking ‘the cult of speed’ and assessing advanced technological developments.

Brabant, focal point of Dutch Design

By | Interview

An interview with Geert Lenders, General-Secretary of Brabant C. (This interview is part of Projeto NAVE, in partnership with Orbe, an initiative to create innovation between the Netherlands and Brazil.)

BrabantC is an investment fund focused on culture and the Creative Industries, and one of the main institutions supporting the Dutch Design Week 2017. The region of Brabant is known as being the European heart of smart solutions and its capital Eindhoven is the headquarter of the biggest design event of Northern Europe. Please visit www.brabantc.nl.

Could you define Dutch Design, or what you think are the main characteristics of Dutch Design?

Lenders: ‘For me, Dutch Design stands for a certain playfulness; a playfulness, one could say, that can go so far that it starts undermining the usefulness of the product. Dutch Design is leading when it comes to conducting research, and in finding new ways to do things. It is very broad, both in terms of material and appearance.’

What is the role of Brabant in the Dutch creative industries, and how does it relate to the other provinces of the Netherlands?

Lenders: ‘It is my understanding that Brabant is the focal point within the Dutch world of design. Of course, a lot is happening in the country, also in the Randstad, but because of the Design Academy Eindhoven and the fair amount of ‘spinoff’ companies around it, I think it is fair to say that Brabant is the place where the concentration of creative companies is very high, and where a lot of ideas and developments originate from.’

Do you know how foreign creative companies look upon the Dutch creative industry, what kind of stereotypes – if any – exist, and what Dutch creative companies can do to overcome those stereotypes?

Lenders: ‘Well, what surprised me about a recent application we had at BrabantC, is the fact that the conceptual aspect of design is out there (see the answer to the first question), while at the same time, the usefulness of the product remains somewhat on the insufficient side. I think that in general, the research mentality of Dutch creative companies is striking, but it also comes with the consequence that it often proves to be difficult to find a big market for the products they deliver. The innovation is there, no doubt, and a huge amount of exciting things happen and are being conceived and invented. This is their strong point, but they aren’t as good in bringing their product to the market and earn money with it.’

So, what you are saying is that a lot of wild ideas are conceived in the initiation phase, but the realization of those ideas is something else entirely?

Lenders: ‘No, those wild ideas come a long way. A lot of things happen, get refined and become a final product. But the image that persists is that the innovations, inventions and creativity, are validated more easily by foreign companies than in the region – in this case Brabant – they originate from.’

Would you say that this is something foreign creative companies are aware of and which they capitalize on or anticipate to?

Lenders: ‘I don’t know, but what I do think, is that foreign creative companies could create a very strong alliance with the creative companies in Brabant, because the content created in Brabant is of such a high level. This content is what other companies need, of course, to run a successful business, and I believe that is what foreign companies, or companies outside of Brabant, are better at. And I think that within that combination, both foreign and Dutch companies could mean a lot to each other.

Jay Plaat's photo - creative industry innovation

The interview was conducted by Jay Plaat, one of the collaborators of Borda. Jay holds a BA in Cultural Studies and an MA (cum laude) in Creative Industries. An arts and culture devotee, specialized in film and currently writing about film for online cultural magazine 8WEEKLY. In the past, he has written about art for Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant.